Alan Bersin may be thumbing yet another ride on Barack Obama’s political appointment highway.
  • Alan Bersin may be thumbing yet another ride on Barack Obama’s political appointment highway.
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Though the Obama administration’s second-term housecleaning begins soon, one controversial San Diegan is given good odds to hang around another four years in one capacity or another. Alan Bersin, currently assistant secretary of international affairs at Homeland Security, is a longtime friend of Bill and Hillary Clinton, having gone to Yale Law and Oxford University on a Rhodes scholarship.

Brooklyn born, Bersin moved to Los Angeles and met Lisa Foster, wealthy heiress to San Diego’s garment-making and border-area-real-estate Ratner fortune. After marrying, the couple moved to San Diego, and Bersin became local chairman of Bill Clinton’s 1992 presidential campaign. Following the election, Clinton named him U.S. attorney here.

Though Bersin had a rocky tenure, criticized by some for forcing illegal border crossers east into the perilous backcountry, he also became Southwest “border czar,” named by Clinton’s attorney general Janet Reno. In 1997, he endorsed a San Ysidro real estate development at the same time he and family members owned property near the frontier with Mexico.

But the fireworks really began for Bersin in 1998, when instead of heading to Washington to assume a high-ranking Justice Department post as widely expected, he became superintendent of the San Diego Unified School District. Seven years and many privatization battles with the teachers’ union later, Bersin was unceremoniously let go by a newly elected school board majority. The Democrat became GOP governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s secretary of education, and later Republican San Diego mayor Jerry Sanders appointed him to the board that runs San Diego’s international airport.

Then came the 2008 election of Barack Obama, and Bersin wound up as assistant secretary for international affairs and special representative for border affairs at the Department of Homeland Security. The president named him commissioner of customs and border protection but was forced to use a so-called recess appointment after a Senate committee failed to act on the nomination and details emerged of reporting problems regarding his household staff in Point Loma. When that gig timed out last December, Bersin was made assistant secretary of international affairs and chief diplomatic officer of Homeland Security.

Bersin and his extended family have long been heavy donors to Democratic causes, including Obama’s presidential campaign. Before he got his job in the new administration, Bersin gave $28,500 to the Democratic White House Victory Fund in July 2008; $2300 to the Obama Victory Fund the same month; and $6500 to the Committee for Change that October. He also kicked in $28,500 to the Democratic National Committee Services Corporation.

This year, records show, Bersin hasn’t made any contributions, though daughter Alissa by his first marriage gave $500 on August 25. She works for the McDevitt Company, a high-end retail real estate firm from Philadelphia. According to a May 2010 wedding notice in the New York Times, Alissa “helps design and execute expansion strategies for retailers” and has a bachelor’s degree from Harvard and a master’s in European cinema studies from England’s University of Bath. Her husband Zachary Miller coproduced 2009’s The Messenger, a war drama starring Woody Harrelson and Ben Foster and directed by Israeli screenwriter and former journalist Oren Moverman. Miller gave Obama $288 in 2008.

Bersin’s mother-in-law, Pauline Foster of Rancho Santa Fe, gave $2500 to the winning congressional campaign of Democrat Scott Peters, as well as $1750 to ex–Democratic assemblywoman Lori Saldaña, who narrowly lost to Peters in the primary. Foster also gave $2000 to Democratic congresswoman Susan Davis.

Her daughter, Karen Silberman, gave $3500 to Peters. Karen’s husband, Jeff Silberman, son of ex–federal prison inmate Richard Silberman, who was once married to ex–San Diego mayor Susan Golding, gave $5000 to Peters. In addition, Jeffrey gave a total of $500 to Obama and $2500 to the U.S. Senate campaign of Wisconsin Democrat Tammy Baldwin, who beat former GOP governor Tommy Thompson, thus becoming the first openly gay senator in history.

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monaghan Nov. 21, 2012 @ 5:45 p.m.

So who's taking bets on what Bersin's next D.C. job will be? I read someplace that his present boss, Janet Napolitano, might be named Attorney General if Eric Holder quits. (I find this hard to imagine since Napolitano's been responsible for deporting so many undocumented Mexicans in the last few years.) So what job will Bersin snag?


SurfPuppy619 Nov. 21, 2012 @ 7:15 p.m.

Her daughter, Karen Silberman, gave $3500 to Peters. Karen’s husband, Jeff Silberman, son of ex–federal prison inmate Richard Silberman Interesting twist.

I have never seen so much cronyism in my life as thta of the patronage Bersin has been gifted.


monaghan Nov. 22, 2012 @ 1:19 p.m.

SurfPuppy, maybe it's hard to find a political donor with brains when doling out patronage. It must be said, to paraphrase Obama on Hillary, that Alan Bersin is "smart enough" for government work, plus he doesn't care if he works for Democrats or Republicans.

(I am reminded of the rich father-in-law of our own Laurie Black, a DINO like Bersin. Her husband's dad owned the Hotel Del, regularly gave big bucks to Democratic Party, claimed to have received the Medal of Honor in WW II and, on his death, was buried in Arlington National Cemetery. When it was revealed that the Medal of Honor was a lie, his body was exhumed and buried elsewhere.)


Visduh Nov. 24, 2012 @ 8:24 p.m.

Don't get too into the hyperbole here. Larry Lawrence never claimed to have the Medal of Honor--Good Grief, that's too easy to verify. But he did make a bunch of claims while he went through three wives, and he did end get buried at Arlington because he claimed WWII merchant marine service which was a total fabrication.

The real issue here is Bersin's lack of qualification, save for an ability to place campaign contributions at the most advantageous times with the winners. He's managed to work himself into many slots for which he was utterly unsuited. The worst example was his stint as superintendent of schools, where he was clueless as to what needed to be done. In the process of his bull-in-a-china-shop rampage he did untold damage to the system he was there to "reform", and yet managed to get the U-T to support him. How'd he manage that? Being always personable (meaning he looked the part) had a major role. But there must be more, and plenty of that is shrouded in mystery.


monaghan Nov. 26, 2012 @ 11:18 p.m.

I woulda sworn Larry Lawrence claimed a Medal of Honor and then his body was booted from Arlington National Cemetery. I will invoke a version of Trust and Verify: can't Matt Potter settle this? If I'm wrong, I need to apologize to DINO Laurie Black.


SurfPuppy619 Nov. 27, 2012 @ 8:11 a.m.

No you are correct, M Larry Lawrence DID claim to have been a merchant marine and was booted out of Arlington when it was uncovered as a falsehood that he was not, and in fact had never served in any branch of the military.

I have never heard he claimed to have received the Congressional Medal of Honor though.


monaghan Nov. 27, 2012 @ 9:40 p.m.

So it was falsifying Merchant Marine service that got Larry Lawrence evicted from Arlington National Cemetery, not any false claims to the Medal of Honor. Apologies to the Black family, for my half-accurate statement.


tomjohnston Nov. 28, 2012 @ 7:18 a.m.

I realize that it equates to basically the same thing, but I believe that his wife actually wrote a letter to Bill Clinton asking to have his remains exhumed from Arlington. I don't know if anyone remembers, but at that time there was a big stink raised because of allegations that the Clinton administration had allowed a bunch of their largest contributors to essentially buy their way into ANS by granting them waivers. It didn't die down until the Sec of the Army made public the list of everyone granted waivers by the Clinton administration and Lawrence was the only one one the list who was a campaign contributor. As an aside to this, something that perhaps Don Bauder would have the best knowledge of, not that long after his death, didn't Lawrence's widow have a "boyfriend" move in to that big Coronado mansion that was built for her? I think he was a writer or reporter for the UT who ended up getting fired for something he wrote, or something along those lines. As I said, perhaps Don Bauder remembers the scoop on that.


SurfPuppy619 Nov. 28, 2012 @ 3:44 p.m.

1- M Larry Lawrence was on his way to being EVICTED from Arlington, there is no way around that, he was NOT a veteran, and lied that he was. His wife asked to remove him because his eviction was inevitable, Congress was pissed off big time, and it was causing Clinton problems as President. I was under the impression that no one who is not a veteran could be buried at Arlington (Or Rosecrans or any other military cemetary), except for spouse or children, and that cannot be waived.

2- Lawrence's "trophy wife" Shelia was dating the UT cartoonist Steve Kelly after her husband died (Kelley is m ALL TIME favortie political cartoonist, was devestated when he got canned) . The home fronting Coronado beach has been stated as being built for Shelia but that is simply not true, it has been there for decades..maybe he remodeled it for Shelia but it was Lawrence's home before he married her.


tomjohnston Nov. 28, 2012 @ 4:56 p.m.

  1. As I said, her writing the letter equated to his being "evicted" from Arlington. A waiver being given for Lawrence to interred at ANS wasn't what was causing Clinton problems, it was the granting of 69 other waivers by the Clinton administration between 1993 and 1998 and the allegations by some Republican members of Congress in return for campaign contributions. As I mentioned above, those allegations proved to be false. There are non-veterans buried who are not family members in Arlington. Interment at ANS is highly regulated but between 1967 and 2006, there were 325 burial waivers issued.
  2. Actually, it's been there over a century. I didn't realize which house it was. I've been looking at that house from the beach for as long as I can remember. Built in 1902, Lawrence bought it sometime in the '70's and his widow sold it in 2000 for about $5 million and then again in 2003 for around $13 million

SurfPuppy619 Nov. 28, 2012 @ 6:51 p.m.

Yeah, I know, I lived around the corner in 1988, it has been there for 110 years, he did not build it for the trophy wife, but he probably did do a major remodel....I am curious what it would sell for today.


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